perhaps

perhaps it is best to start here: open your calendar on your phone and tap to 2016, then start scrolling up, so that the years fly up and out of sight (a decade at a time). sooner or later you will find yourself in the vicinity of an average life span, and realize you might be hovering above the  day of your demise. then check your pulse, and acknowledge that although you feel queasy, you still don't quite believe it's true: that this, all this, could end.

perhaps, then it would be a good time to think how much "advance notice" would be required to live your life in a way that takes this detail into account. 3 weeks? 6 months? 17 years? 

it's worth asking yourself the question, even while you dread the answer. perhaps this little mind game will help you. or perhaps if won't.

either way, I hope you can taste the berried hands, and smell the hard sweat and see the faces of those that plucked the beans, shipped them around the world, these beans that miraculously wound up in your kitchen: now roasted, and ground and poured, and steaming as your raise the cup (to one in particular), with a slight tremor of things to come, and more grateful for things past, and just a little more present right now, at 10:14am, April 30th, 2016.

proverb 1980

I compared myself to everyone

and found myself

wanting

more

until I found

you

holding nothing

but yourself

wanting me.

waiting

to share an orange

with you, right here,

amidst the noise of

our age. and time

and time again to

lean in and touch

your skin and see

her talk, and him

kick towards a world

that we can't control.

father's day:

the sound of him working downstairs,

in our basement, out of which he re-

emerged, seeing the magic in our eyes:

wood toys, used but well waxed skiis,

advent reefs, bikes like new,

diningtable extensions so all

his grandkidsmight sit with him,

and other knick-knackinventions,

sometimes driving mom crazy,

but always garnering significant

approvalfrom us all, for this was

his true art form.

 

he could fix everything and he still does.

last Christmas I found myself getting

food from the pantry and suddenly

stopped, hearing the usual prayerful

meditation of my father fixing up the

world around him one flat tire at a time.

I listened to the noise of him working,

telling my heart to remember these

sounds, storing them up for the years

ahead, when all I will have is the music

of my father working. of my father loving.

she says Hi to everyone in the park:

she says hi to everyone,
and if they don't respond,
she says it again until they
they acknowledge her hello.

there is of course the occasional
adult who can't be bothered by
by a toddler's effort to engage.

she doesn't care much, yet,
and says bye in equal measure
to those who engage and those
who ignore.

                may I become like her,

may I become like a toddler.

not just another status update:

of course the washed up body of a 3 yr old boy
will make you stop and reconsider public policy.

there is no such thing as compassion fatigue
only the calculating unwillingness to consider

someone else’s story as real as your own,
unfolding during bath time this evening.

while you washed your child clean and
brushed her teeth, another dad, unable

to keep two kids afloat, let go of one
and then another, watching the vast

hope of home and rescue and raising
a glass on their wedding day, disappear.

 

 

midwinter prayer

she came, as expected, head first into

the harshest winter we had seen.

 

her mother carried her these last weeks

below freezing, belly bulging, against the cold,

while our little furnace kept us warm at night

kicking towards spring at 136 beats per minute.

 

she came, as expected, with a full head of hair,

the heritage of nations wet and clinging, (as if

their lives depended on it), all curled into one:

Austrians and Mexicans, English and French,

Americans and Russians, and those native to

this country of her birth—all left their mark.

 

now I see that that peace between nations

will only come to us as a child, (then as now)

the weight of time witnessing her first cry,

(unsure where to turn, but willing to learn)

intuiting her way towards a mother’s heart,

followed by sleep reconciliatory and kind.

 

the sound of her name, forty long weeks,

tuned words to song, tossing variations

on a theme to each other, playing by ear,

(not forgetting the Austrian Aussprache).

 

the book says Annie means Prayer,

and Evelyn is one who brings Life,

together she mends our broken circle.

 

may she bring life to those on the margins,

who are sick with fear, rejoice with all who

walk the fringe for whom none else do cheer.

 

for those who will not, cannot, and have

forgot to pray, may she remind us that

that there is longing enough in every

human heart and words beyond our grasp,

but that if He who is every creature’s friend

will feed the sparrow, we might find

ourselves again anew, at the break of day.

good friday

gather up your stones

and see them float

upon the

sea.

 

fire flies rise again

and light the way

 

a single

tree.

 

my brother's crown

glistens

into the valley

silently.

 

this year again

for the first time

I find myself.

croaking

 

remember me.

pararel dimension

there might be a parallel dimension,

quantum physics tell us, right here,

beyond the coffee and the NYtimes,

the way ants crawling on the table

may not be aware of ants crawling

on the floor. I wonder why I have

lost all sense of wonder of how sound

waves work, invisible, hard to grasp,

yet even my daughter knows how to

turn her head in the direction of the

Bach Sonata, and begins to nod.

ambition

in the final analysis, 

it may not be simply

naked ambition that drives

us unto the breach again, 

and again.

 

Or if ambition, it is fueled

by the desire to join a conversation,

one that started before we got here, 

and one that will continue long after.

 

Ambition drives us into battle

but we happen upon the table, 

and someone asks us about our

day or life, 

 

and what do we make of it?

mother and child

I saw mother and daughter descending

the stairs to the train amidst the hustle

of the new year, holding hands gently,

slowing us all down, inconveniently slow.

 

the girl (no more than 3) had trisomy 21,

and I wondered how it was apparent to me,

being a hundred feet away, catching a glimpse

of an extra chromosome. oh holy chromosome.

 

a commitment to the steps ahead, the girl

focused on the ground beneath her feet,

making it difficult for me to see her eyes as I

approached them, looking for a glance. 

 

her mother's eyes found mine instead and

she smiled as I passed them on the stairs,

while tears sprung to my eyes unbidden,

traveling onward with a blessing in my pocket.

how to kill a turkey

It's a hell of a thing

to close up shop

alone in this weather,

knowing what we know now

about death, turkeys and bullets.

 

The man ahead of me is all

but obfuscated by rain that

is hard shooting into snow.

 

There is no shelter here on

this walk to the train. none.

Weeks until real snow falls,

and someone's blood will

mark the spot. 

 

Where is the relativist now,

where the mayflower’s last

plank, and Broadway’s trail

of tear’s long diagonal divide?

 

Learning the piano at age 4

a child is fully able to

distinguish between black

& white, the high and low. 

 

It was years before I was told:

The hippopotamus and walrus,

the narwhal and the mammoth

lost their sons to hunter’s sport,

now subjugated to my fingertips.

 

If you don’t swear to protect the

narwhal as you sit & feast today,

do not praise or pray at all.

 

And when the time comes to play

Silent Night, be silent first for years.

Remember mothers whose sons are

born to be lost.

 

And if after this, you have strength

and sound mind, give away all you

have, move into the poorest project

and after this, if words come, pray.

polar vortex at christmas

of course it’s nonsense to believe,

or know head from tails and spin

days into years and find your life

at the water well after hours.

 

I sold my heart for a cup of coffee,

came home to find a bird outside

on the fire escape, above the sign:

‘$10 fine if found, unless during

emergency’

 

my friend who is lovelier than I,

sends me out on a daily voyage,

a prayer in my pocket. I bring

home bacon, cheese and bread

for a child who looks like me.

 

like fathers before me, I make

the sign of the cross—thrice—

on a head only 8 months old,

as an insurance policy for her

in case the story is true.

 

a grown man tosses himself

back into the crib. stars shine

brighter now.

 

In Buffalo, upstate New York,

three guys from the shelter

are running their asses off,

half drunk, through 40 tons

of snow, just to tell the folks

stuck on the high-way about

some holy nonsense.

driving to corpus christi

driving towards my daughter

and the mother of my child

across a state that is not my home,

on a two-lane highway that

serves both the fast and slow.

 

a doted line divides us all

cocooning forward.

 

my heart, my dear, my heart

is full, so full of that which

must not be left behind.

 

to form this feeling and raise it well,

until it speaks and learns to grow,

though eyes burnt shut by soot and sun:

‘oh man of contingency, changes come,

changes come.’

 

i must not forget—not now, not here—

the weight and names these signs

do bare.

 

man by man this road was paved,

with lone star on his breath; each

man drove home to lover, wife or child,

a paycheck closer to corpus christi,

passing the kings ranch herd of cattle,

and on the meadow—just ahead—a

one-week-old white mare.

psalm 1534

when I feel sad,

when sadness comes,

and the promise is broken,

and the charlatan is king,

a scepter made of tomorrow's headlines;

do I turn to you?

 

Unless he builds the house

we will continue transience

into the thicket of tiny homes.

a poor man's metaphor

is all that's left at the end.

untitled

strangers in a strange land:

to burn and twist a word into being

that will withstand the grind of time

(or at least endure this conversation)

inventing nothing, denying nothing,

bearing only the height and weight it ought,

as younger sounds listen and slowly

again

grow into being.

5 weeks

took a mid morning nap alone

awoke a new man in old skin,

plucked my first grey hair from

my chest; thought of you and

her, all but 5 weeks old, smiling.

while Annie sleeps

if to listen and to learn,

to walk and stagger into being,

and wrestle a friend into the ground.

to hold and burp a baby,

and clean a diaper rash,

to wake up angry and foresworn

and watch someone rise.

 

to miss a country and a half,

to eat beyond one's pleasure

and turn one's self in to Love's

wild gaze beyond the hills.

to struggle with words, not

see eye to eye, to let them go,

or only use the simple ones

such as: bread, you, and more.

to find another word for

longing, Sehnsucht, jazz

to admit this helpless

need for others and their

games and roaring cheer.

to watch a baby sleep

and know that death is

just around the corner.

to be a fool, a fool, a fool

and yet to write with

courage and a laugh.

 

to thank God for whiskey

and for pain, for struggle

and for the sound of rain

that plays for 45 minutes

as she falls asleep between

us two. who knew?

Philip Seymour Hoffman #3

I miss Philip Seymour Hoffman,

in ways I have never missed a

stranger.

 

I want to be like him, the way

a child wants to be an astronaut.

 

I see him appear in the movies

with others who are still here.

 

I love Philip Seymour Hoffman,

in ways I have only loved my

closest friends.

 

midnight mass in Sazlburg

Austria bound.

where home

away from

home

is found.

 

Land der Berge,

Land am Strome,

Land der Äcker,

Land der Dome.

 

This longing for

all the hope I

had in future years,

brings me back

to run along the

Ache of my youth.

 

The quartet will

play on the 24th

from the mountain,

blessing churches,

empty throughout

the year, but if only

for the same longing

they fill up here, this

night, midnight, bright,

full hearts searching,

the candle lit faces

of their neighbors,

until silent night is

played on the guitar

and all goes still

and quiet.

 

surely

there is meaning

here in this our

little town of Salzburg.